1. These appeals are by the defendants in O.S. No. 194 of 1934 on the file of the District Munsif of Masulipatnam. The appellants in S.A. No. 116 were defendants 1 and 2; the appellant in S. A. No. 203 was the 3rd defendant. The suit was filed against them by the respondent for damages for defamation. The respondent was an assistant teacher from 1919 to 1932 in the Hindu College High School at Masulipatam. The first defendant was the president and the second defendant the secretary of the managing committee of the High School. The third defendant was the headmaster. In 1932 the respondent was dismissed by the managing committee and he filed a suit for damages for wrongful dismissal, O.S. No. 5 of 1933 in the Court of the District Munsif of Masulipatam. To that suit the-first defendant as president of the managing committee was the only defendant. The second and third defendants were not impleaded. During the trial of the suit on the 29th March, 1933 the first defendant filed into Court extracts (Ex. A) from a report which had been sent by the third defendant to the managing committee in June, 1931. The report, according to the respondent, contained allegations against him which were defamatory, and the extracts filed by the first defendant were extracts from the report referring to the respondent. Both the lower Courts have found that the allegations in these extracts were defamatory, and the lower appellate Court has confirmed the decree given by the trial Court against! all the defendants for Rs. 300 damages and costs.
2. Both the Courts below have found that the allegations against the respondent in the report of the headmaster to the managing committee were not true, and they have also found that they were meant maliciously. No appeal lies with regard to these findings of fact. The main questions argued on behalf of the appellants have been, firstly, that there was no cause of action disclosed in the plaint against the second and third defendants and secondly that the publication by the first defendant was made on a privileged occasion.
3. With regard to the first contention it is undoubtedly well founded. As already stated it was only the first defendant against whom the suit O.S. No. 5 of 1933 was filed. He alone was responsible for producing into Court in the course of his evidence the extracts marked Ex. A on the 29th March, 1933. The second and third defendants cannot, in any way, be held liable for the actions of the first defendant. Some attempt has been made to show that the second and third defendants were concerned in the publication of these libels because the extracts were prepared by some typist. It is sufficient to say that no allegation of that kind was made in the plaint. The plaint bases the cause of action entirely upon the publication of these typed extracts in the Court on the 29th of March, 1933. Paragraph 9 of, the plaint says:
The cause of action for the suit arose on and from 29th March, 1933, the date on which copy of the report complained of was filed into this Court in O.S. No. 5 of 1933.
Both the lower Courts have been misled into discussing the question whether the headmaster published these allegations when he submitted his report to the committee in 1931, and whether the secretary or the headmaster or both published these allegations when they handed to a typist the full report with instructions to make extracts from it. It is sufficient to say that these occasions of publication are not set out in the plaint as giving rise to any cause of action. The reason is clear. The plaint was filed on the 27th of March, 1934. The period of limitation for such a suit is twelve months, and therefore any publication made before the 27th of March, 1933 would have given a cause of action for a suit which on the 27th of March, 1934 would have been barred by limitation. The lower Courts ought not to have allowed themselves to be led into a discussion of the submission of the report by the headmaster to the committee, or of publishing it before some typist whose identity is not known. The appeal of the second and third defendants must, therefore, succeed on the ground that the plaint disclosed no cause of action, against them.
4. The first defendant's case rests upon the plea of privilege. It is contended for the respondent that this plea of absolute privilege was not raised in the trial Court. I am unable to verify this allegation because the written statement of the first defendant has not been printed. It is true that no issue on the plea of absolute privilege was framed by the learned District Munsif. But it is also clear from the judgment of the learned District Munsif that this question of privilege was in issue between the parties and was discussed by him and found by him in favour of the plaintiff. It was also discussed in the lower appellate Court, and it is not possible now to say that the first defendant cannot be heard on the question of privilege.
5. The extracts were filed by the first defendant in the course of his defence in O.S. No. 5 of 1933. The defendant having been sued for damages for wrongful dismissal thought it necessary for the purpose of his defence to show the grounds upon which the managing committee had taken the step of dismissing the plaintiff. The contention of the first defendant is that these extracts having been filed in such circumstances and for such a purpose, the occasion was one of absolute privilege. That is, I think, correct. The authorities are not doubtful. In the case Royal Aquarium and Summer and Winter Garden Society v. Parkinson (1892) 1 Q.B. 431 Lord Justice Lopes has stated:
The authorities establish beyond all. question this: that neither party,, witness, counsel, jury, nor judge, can be put to answer civilly or criminally for words spoken in office; that no action of libel or slander lies, whether against judges, counsel, witnesses, or parties, for words written or spoken in the course of any proceeding before any Court recognised by law, and this though the words written or spoken were written or spoken maliciously without any justification or excuse, and from personal ill will and anger; against the person defamed.
The learned Counsel for the appellants has also relied upon the to case of Kennedy v. Milliard (1859) 1 L.T. 78. These extracts (Ex. A) were undoubtedly filed by the first defendant in the course of and for the purpose of his defence against a suit for damages for wrongful dismissal. The learned Counsel for the respondent has drawn my attention to several decisions in which it was held that writs, pleadings, and affidavits are governed by the law of absolute privilege and has attempted to say that not every statement in writing filed into Court is' privileged. The answer is that it depends entirely on the nature of the statements in writing that are filed and the purpose for which they are filed. If they are documents considered by a party as being essential for his defence, they are covered by the doctrine of privilege. Learned Counsel has cited the case of Balammal v. Palandi Naidu : AIR1938Mad164 . But that is quite irrelevant to this case. That was not a case of statements made in Court but a case of defamatory information given out of Court to a vakil.
6. The first defendant also must succeed in this appeal since he is protected by the doctrine of absolute privilege. Both these appeals are accordingly allowed and the plaintiff's suit dismissed with costs throughout.
7. Leave to appeal refused.